Police face cuts as economy falters
By Sara Kugler
NEW YORK — Canceling a new class of police officers is one of several extreme measures that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to make to steer the nation's largest city through an economic slowdown that he says is just beginning.
Bloomberg was set on Wednesday to outline revisions to the city's $59 billion budget that slash jobs and spending in an attempt to bridge billion-dollar deficits, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been made.
The sobering news includes the decision to cancel January's class of more than 1,000 police cadets. The police department will go without those officers, and the next class will begin in July. It is an unusual decision for a mayor — during tough times in the early 1990s, mayors David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani delayed the start date of academy classes by a few months, but did not cancel them entirely.
The city's work force will shrink by 3,000 employees: 500 through layoffs and the rest through attrition, according to the official. Among the cuts are 475 jobs in the education department, though no teacher jobs will be slashed.
The updated budget plan will show that the city faces budget gaps of $4 billion this year and next.
To help bridge those deficits, Bloomberg asked all city agencies in September to come up with their own plans to cut spending by 2.5 percent this fiscal year, which ends next June, and additional cuts of 5 percent the following year.
The firefighting training academy will reduce its program from 23 weeks to 18 weeks to save operational costs. The mayor, who drew criticism when he closed firehouses to save money during his first term, also plans to eliminate nighttime engine companies in five firehouses that also have ladder companies. The move allows those firehouses to stay open but with fewer firefighters at night.
The Department of Health will close its dental health clinics that serve some 17,000 poor children each year. Officials said the city would rather not shut down the program, but lacking other options they decided to eliminate a service that many families can access through Medicaid.
Bloomberg has also been hinting for several months that a temporary $1 billion property tax cut he implemented last year may need to go.
By using his budget knife on such key jobs and services, Bloomberg is making some politically risky moves. It sets up a more difficult environment as he prepares to run for re-election next year.
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The billionaire independent mayor last month announced that he believes the city needs him to stay on past the end of 2009, when his second term ends, to manage the long-term effects of the financial crisis and economic downturn. In just a matter of weeks, he persuaded the City Council to change the law that limited him and other officeholders to two consecutive terms, and on Monday he signed the bill allowing him to run for mayor again.